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The Jeff Falconio Blog

What Went Wrong: Detroit Lions

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Technically, nothing went wrong for the Detroit Lions in 2009.  After an 0-16 campaign in '08, there was only one way to go and that was up.  Most years a 2-14 record would be catastrophic but for Detroit it was a step in the right direction.

The problem was rather than a giant leap, it was just a baby step forward in 2009.  With the first overall pick in last year's draft the Lions selected quarterback Matthew Stafford and elected to start him in Week One.  Naturally Stafford looked the way a rookie QB should look on a bad team as he threw 20 interceptions and was sacked 24 times.  The constant beating wore down Stafford and he missed six games last year.  As expected when a team finished with two wins injuries were a problem for the Lions as the offensive trifecta of Stafford, running back Kevin Smith and receiver Calvin Johnson missed 11 games combined.  It didn't help that Detroit again had a porous offensive line that gave up 43 sacks while Smith finished with a paltry 3.4 yards per carry.  But at full strength the Lions showed progress offensively with the pinnacle being a 38-37 come-from-behind win over Cleveland featuring a 400-plus yard day from Stafford.  

While there is a ray of hope for Detroit's offense there appears to be no end in sight defensively.  The Lions finished last in the league in points allowed, total yards and passing yards.  Giving up 37 to Cleveland was bad enough but the Lions were destroyed by New Orleans and Baltimore, giving up 45 and 48 points respectively.  The real cardinal sin came in two games against the Bears in which Chicago scored an average of 42.5 points.  Detroit attempted to rebuild the defense in '09 and newcomers Larry Foote and Julian Peterson paid dividends but the Lions needed way more than two players to contribute.  It's telling that Peterson led the team with a meager 4.5 sacks while rookie safety Louis Delmas was a co-leader with just two, yes two, interceptions.  Without a pass rush and a secondary void of cover corners opponents threw on the Lions all day.

A two win improvement isn't great but for a team desperate for just one victory it's a start.  The Lions need better production from Stafford, an overhaul of the offensive line and basically an entirely new defense before they can compete with the heavy hitters of the NFC North.

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